Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pop Culture Tidbit: Karaoke Excellence!

It's true dear readers. The end of the semester is near, which means I've had little time to compose my thoughts on pop culture the way I'd like. I have a running list of topics that are set to be developed as soon as I dig myself out of my piles of grading and admin work due before May 1st. Until then, I turn the debate over to you Popademic followers!!

Since I'm participating in a karaoke flash mob in about 15 minutes, I'd love to hear your most entertaining karaoke stories -- who you've seen, what they sang, etc. Leave them in the comments, and I'll put together a post of "best of" including my top five karaoke experiences throughout the years.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pop Culture Tidbit: Fashion Fads from Japan

In an effort to explain some of the cultural difference between Japan and the United States during a guest lecture this week, I used the following image. Test your PhotoHunt skills to see what’s wrong with it:

If you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, go read this New York Times article. I used the example to illustrate different cultural orientations to appropriateness in public contexts, and as a way to understand approaches to conflict (attack vs. retreat) as culturally bound. I think it worked pretty well. :oD And in case you want another point of reference, here's a fun little video.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Club! - The Help

Completely shifting gears from where I’ve been lately, I should disclose that I have, in fact, become a little old lady in my mind. I joined a book club. I am by far the youngest member, but so far I’ve quite enjoyed it! Perhaps this is a result of being in a profession where I am always about 10 years younger than my peers, so I’m used to it. I actually missed the last meeting where we discussed our latest read The Help, so I thought I’d talk through my thoughts here instead. Technically, New York Times bestsellers count as pop culture, right?

The Help is a series of blended narratives exploring life in the South during the 1960s, with an emphasis on African-American housekeepers and their relationships with the white families they care for. Although the layered narrative approach had the potential to alienate and further exacerbate racial stereotypes/tensions, I thought the author did a good job of balancing those issues in a way that brings in a casual reader. Perhaps my favorite moment of the book was when one of the African-American women explained very carefully how you never, ever crossed a white woman. The series of events she articulates align tightly with our cultural understandings of “mean girl” behavior among white women – passive aggressive ways of controlling the behavior of other women, particularly with respect to the relationships they build and sustain with men. I also enjoyed the undercurrent of education throughout the book – one of the main characters teaches the white children in her care to think in “colorblind” terms, in a sense, emphasizing that the progress we make on race relations (or any other kind of social acceptance for marginalized identities) begins in educating the young to think outside the boundaries of what society currently defines as acceptable within any cultural moment.

It really is a wonderful read – I picked it up here and there before bed for several weeks. There were plenty of places to pause if I needed to, and plenty of spots to keep me glued to the page if I had more time to invest. If you’re looking for a well written text with poignant social themes without the heavy-handedness of a lot of social commentary fiction, this book is for you!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Film Roulette

I’ve been sick lately, so I’ve had quite a bit of downtime to catch up on pop culture stuff. I’ve had less time to write about it because in between watching things, I’ve been sleeping. So here’s a quick Monday run down of some short, under-developed thoughts about films I’ve seen in the past several days.

The Ugly Truth – Terrible script that reinforced awful gendered stereotypes of dating. Decent chemistry between Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. I just about cried when I saw the news that Heigl will star as one of my favorite crime novel characters Stephanie Plum – if there was a worse casting decision ever in the history of Hollywood, I’m not sure what it was! Oh yeah, that’s right, Hayden Christensen as adolescent Vader.

Where the Wild Things Are – Kind of brilliant. Dark. Twisty. Not at all what I was expecting, and it now makes sense why so many people disliked it. Certainly not a film for young children. I need to watch it a second time because I’m still not sure what to make of the sand scenes.

2012 – Here’s an idea. For every scene in this film that is completely and totally unrealistic or implausible, take a drink! You’ll be through a six pack before the first half hour is over, AND you’ll still have over two hours of film to look forward to! Try not to black out. Seriously, John Cusack. Fire your agent.

Love Happens – On a related note, Jennifer Aniston, what happened to you? This film should have been a drama about people dealing with grief and loss, which would have been great with Aaron Eckhart as the lead. Layering in a terrible romantic comedy B-line with a parrot was just ridiculous.

I have a bunch of random TV things too, but I need to get moving to catch up with everything else I’ve missed the past few days. So, wander back over here later this week.